A recent study about body image and eating behaviors of almost 900 young adults in the U.S. conducted by the Center for Body Image Research and Policy at the University of Missouri concluded that “40% of women and 46% of men agreed that it would be worse to gain 25 pounds during social distancing than to become infected with COVID-19.” From this follows that weight gain through less movement and more emotional eating due to stay-at-home regulations is currently seen as more life-threatening than the Coronavirus by a large portion of individuals because of the ways body size determines social survival and cultural acceptance. Diet Culture in 2020: COVID-19 and Instagram Trends In the early months of 2020, social media…

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When flipping through the pages of Sander Gilman’s book Obesity: A Biography, my curiosity was piqued by the reproduction of a chronophotograph and its caption “Eadweard Muybridge, ‘A Gargantuan Woman Walking.’ Collotype (1887)[…]. (Wellcome Collection).“ Identifying the woman as “gargantuan” struck me as awkward. It led me to trace the history and meaning of image and caption, which—as it turns out—tells a lot about how fat bodies have been identified, categorized, and stigmatized in modern history.

In the era of the “obesity epidemic,” fat has become a politically charged topic. It thus often provokes an overtly politicized response from writers of fiction. One such novelist is Sarai Walker, whose 2015 book Dietland links cultural attitudes toward women’s eating and body size to other feminist political concerns ranging from rape culture to domestic violence to gender gaps in employment. In Dietland, the restrictions on the amount of space that women take up become a metonymy for all of the restrictions placed on women’s lives in a patriarchal culture. When the main character, Alicia (nicknamed Plum), begins to understand the connection between diet culture and other forms of patriarchal oppression, she is able to let go of her…

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In the current anti-obesity climate of the U.S., a bevy of health messages are aimed at the “obese,” exhorting the portly to lose weight, get in shape, and put down the fork. But what have fat people, or at least a subset of fat people, had to say about the relationship between food, body habitus, and eating? According to self-proclaimed fat activists, society forces fat people to diet, leading to a distorted and damaging relationship with food. As an alternative, fat activists advocate “intuitive eating,” relying on ones’ internal sensations of hunger, pleasure, and satiety to guide food consumption. This ideology, implying balance, harmony, health, and pleasure is vastly appealing – but perhaps flawed. The fat acceptance movement began in…

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